Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, November 14, 2019


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Report: High Court Peeved at State Bar’s Unilateral Action

Former Jurist Scotland Says Justices Would Have Expected to Be Consulted Before Topics to Be on July Bar Exam Were Revealed to Test-Takers Following Inadvertent Release to Law School Deans


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A 19-page report released yesterday says members of the California Supreme Court were miffed when the State Bar took it upon itself to release to all 9,000-or-so test-takers a list of the essay topics to be on the July 2019 bar exam, after that list was inadvertently sent to 16 law school deans who were slated to observe the grading.

Taking such action “without seeking guidance from the Supreme Court,” the report observes, “was in part a consequence of the State Bar’s lack of clear understanding of the Court’s expectations regarding the Court’s oversight role.”

Former Third District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Arthur G. Scotland, now with the San Rafael law firm of Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni, signed the report, which was commissioned by the Supreme Court and is to be paid for by the State Bar. Scotland told of tension that has developed between the high court and the State Bar.

‘Enhanced Oversight’

 “Presently, the Supreme Court has been more active and engaged in overseeing the State Bar than it has in the past,” he wrote. “It is readily apparent that some at the State Bar have not adapted well to this enhanced oversight.”

He quoted State Bar General Counsel Vanessa Holton—whom he criticized for being “at times recalcitrant during her interview” with investigators—as observing that the relationship with the high court “feels more adversarial” than in the past when the court was more “supportive.”

The former jurist related that “some members of the State Bar’s leadership became resentful” when Sunil “Neil” Gupta, the Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s principal attorney and liaison with the State Bar, complained of the lack of communication in connection with releasing the test topics.

Gives Advice

Scotland counseled:

“The interpersonal relationships that connect the leadership of the State Bar to the Supreme Court should be strengthened; and the State Bar must adapt better to the Court’s enhanced oversight and input.

“The Supreme Court should consider further clarifying for the State Bar the Court’s view of the nature of its relationship with the State Bar and the Court’s expectations regarding when it should be involved in State Bar decisions….Following the State Bar’s decision to release the July 2019 exam topics to all participants prior to the exam, its leadership learned the Supreme Court was dissatisfied that it was not involved in that decision-making process. State Bar leadership indicated that they are receptive to having the relationship between the State Bar and the Supreme Court further clarified.”

He said the disclosure to deans of topics to be on the bar exam was “an inadvertent human error.” It stemmed, in part, he said, from the shortage of proctors “placed the Admissions office staff under pressure, leading to the shortcut in procedures that produced the inadvertent disclosure.”

Results of the July bar exam are scheduled to be released on Friday.


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